Community artist Glenis Redmond is a workshop leader for The Kennedy Center for The Arts in Washington D.C. She recently visited Utah in an effort to expose more youth to poetry. She taught poetry classes to students and staff at a number of Cache Valley Schools including Logan’s Fast Forward Charter School, Logan High School and Edith Bowen Elementary School.
Redmond first became a teaching artist when she wanted to be more involved with poetry at the academic level while her children were in school. With a background in psychology and poetry, she sought to help individuals find their own voice.
“I wanted to give away, I think, the art form that inspired me," said Redmond. "So you live in a community and you want the community to be involved in the power of words."
Redmond believes that poetry has the ability to give individuals a new perspective.
“It’s the answer for everything," said Redmond. "I mean - look at the world, look at the news. It’s insane. But there’s still so much beauty going on. I think artists have a way of looking at beauty, a way of looking at struggle. And it’s a way that’s not typical. They're doorways, they're gateways that we can become our best selves. That is what artists do - they give away the best part of themselves. And that makes us better as people and humans.”
Redmond feels that poetry and teaching is a vehicle to give back to the community.
“When I was counseling," said Redmond, "I was a new councilor and I didn’t know if I was being effective. Someone just said, ‘If you have something to give, give it away.’ That’s what I would say to teaching artists. That’s what I would say to poets. Be bold. Speak your truth. Do your work. You know the craft and then just have some experiments. They’re all experiments. It doesn’t have to go perfectly and you don’t know when you’re making an impact. But you may be planting a seed for somebody somewhere.”
Redmond believes that poetry comes from the most unlikely places and that each person has something to say.
“Poetry is even more necessary now than it’s ever been, and I’m sure every generation has felt that way," said Redmond. "I just feel our youth need to be empowered. It doesn’t take much to ask somebody what they feel or what they think and then give them a tool. And just be willing to listen. I really think the future is with our youth when they rise up.
"Where kids live a lot of times they’ll say, ‘In my town there’s nothing going on’. Are you kidding? There’s so much going on. I don’t know what it is that our kids feel like they live in a clinical boring world. I think we need to give them new lenses. The arts - that’s a great lens for them to look at life through.”
Redmond is known for creating safe spaces through her work as a community artist. During her workshops, she often starts with several poems of her own before moving on to build a structure for others to create their own poetry.
“Being vulnerable is a really important thing," she said. "Listening when they talk and try to pull them out and just create the space of now, you’re going to tell your truth. It’s kind of powerful to me how a mundane place all the sudden becomes sacred. Because we are truth telling right now. We’re going to say what’s beautiful about the world. We’re going to say what’s hard about the world. And there might be some tears. And that’s ok. Because we don’t have places for that.”
Redmond has felt the importance of expressing emotion through poetry in her work and life.
“When I grew up, my mother would say things like, ‘Don’t cry’ or, ‘Just forget about it.’" said Redmond. "And those are kind of unhealthy things to do - to suppress. And what I’m asking them to do is release.”